Pond Bay Villa BVI poolWhat's been missing in the villa rental market up till now is what lies outside the villa.

It's the destination itself. Many villa clients, ensconced in their plush surroundings, never venture off the compound to explore beyond the infinity pool and view.

Travel agents now have a powerful new tool when booking villa vacations, one that combines the stay with opportunities for clients to immerse themselves in the locale.

Villas of Distinction, a luxury villa provider and rental company that has matched travelers with vacation homes in 50 destinations since 1989, has partnered with Excursionist, an online planning site for customized tours.

"Partnering with Excursionist allows us to use the expertise of a team that is passionate about travel and seeks out one-of-a-kind experiences for our villa clients," said Steve Lassman, vice president of Villas of Distinction. "Excursionist's customized tour packages and excursions complement our villa experiences and set us apart from the competition."

It's a win-win for agents, who get a 10% commission on the villa booking and a minimum of 5% commission on the Excursionist activity, depending upon what specific activity is booked and the cost associated with whatever is selected.

Even better is that arrangements for both the villa and the customized activity can be handled for the agent by Villas of Distinction, according to Lassman.

"After a member of our concierge team … speaks with the travel agent regarding the villa accommodation and other arrangements such as a rental car or grocery prestocking, we find out what the agent's client wants in terms of a customized activity package," Lassman said. "The agent has Villas of Distinction as the main point of contact in the whole process. Our team works behind the scenes with Excursionist to arrange the rest."

Villas of Distinction will relaunch its website shortly, which will include the Excursionist activity information and packages with prearranged itineraries and prices.

In the Caribbean, sample activities include a VIP roundtrip transfer from St. Thomas to St. John, including the airport greeting, private car to the ferry dock and private water taxi transfer to St. John, priced from $175 per person.

On St. Martin, villa clients can book a half-day scuba trip for $100 per person or a four-hour biking tour of the historical sites in Phillipsburg on the Dutch side of the island for $225 per person for a group of four.

"We are helping the travel agent create remarkable experiences for their clients, both with the villa stay and the off-site activities," Lassman said.

Villas of Distinction's inventory includes more than 5,000 properties in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Thailand, Hawaii and the continental U.S. More than 1,200 are in the Caribbean with Barbados, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos topping the most popular locales.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 


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